Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why I am Happy to Be an Olympian Couch Potato (Part One)

I am a fan of the winter Olympics. I grew up in a cold weather state, and one of the girls I went to high school with, Kari Swenson, actually became an Olympic biathlete, although her real notoriety came when she was kidnapped while training in the Bridger Mountains alone by two men who lived in the woods, a father and a son, looking for a bride for the son. I kid you not. She was eventually rescued, and she showed true Montana toughness by competing six months later in Quebec, taking a gold medal. I read she is a veterinarian now in our hometown, but she only married in the last few years. I would imagine it took a while to be able to truly put that behind her. For a backwoods little state, we do have our extra share of nuts. However, I digress.

For me, the largest draw was figure skating. I adored it. I grew up watching Peggy Fleming, Torvill and Dean, and a whole lot of Russians, then I would try to imitate them in my stocking feet on the slick kitchen floor. On actual ice I am much less graceful. My two daughters grew up with football and skating, it was almost inevitable when they both gravitated to the sport. When my girls were small I became aware of a young junior competitor named Michelle Kwan. She captured our attention almost from the start, and she became the equivalent of the Steelers for us. We were slavishly devoted. At the same time she rose to the senior ranks, the whole Tonya Harding having Nancy Kerrigan whacked on the knee thing happened, and skating captured a level of attention it had never enjoyed before. Everybody was curious why a skater would go to such lengths, and suddenly there was an unprecedented level of coverage. We followed every step of that young woman's career, and Kelsey naturally wanted to learn to do what she did, and began taking lessons. Never once, not once, did I ever stop to think I was sending out dangerous body image messages to my daughter. Skaters come in all sizes and shapes, I figured. But, of course, now as I look at Sasha Cohen, who is so tiny she is nearly transparent, I think a little differently. Yet, I am conflicted. Figure skating is a beautiful sport, and when it is performed at the top of its level, as Michelle Kwan always did, it is also art. A mixture of art and sport that can often drive me to tears of joy. I have stopped following it closely, feeling bereft of a champion after Michelle retired, but when I do tune in, now to watch the Japanese women dominate the world scene, I become immediately transfixed again.

Some of you may recall Michelle's first true run at Olympic gold twelve years ago, when Tara Lapinski upset her and she ended up with silver. Four years later she was poised to redeem herself in Salt Lake City, and I decided Kelsey, Marissa and I should witness it in person. What happened afterwards was the trip of a lifetime. But, not in the way you might think.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you come on Thursday to me or Jen's blog and link up this post to our " skew" we're talking about the olympics !